How to Potty Train Your Puppy

Question: We have a new Maltipoo puppy. What are your potty training tips? – Greg

One of the main components to successful house training is management. By this I mean that it is incumbent upon you, the owner, to arrange your puppy’s living space and organize your and her time in such a way as to minimize her opportunities to make a mistake and go to the bathroom in the house. Additionally, of course, you need to teach her where she is allowed to go to the bathroom.

First off, when, and how often, should you be taking your puppy out? The general rule of thumb is that your puppy should be able to “hold it” for the number of hours equal to her age in months, plus one. So a two and a half month (or ten week) old puppy should, theoretically, be able to “hold it” for three and a half hours. This is, of course, a loose guideline. And for you, Greg, it’s important to bear in mind that smaller breed puppies have smaller bladders. In addition to this overarching rule, puppies generally need to go to the bathroom:

  • 5-10 minutes after drinking
  • 15-20 minutes after eating
  • Immediately upon waking up or being let out of their crate, and after a play session

Taking your puppy out frequently enough to avoid accidents is step one of a successful management routine.

But what about the rest of the time? What can you do to manage your puppy’s time in the house? What it comes down to is; supervise, supervise, supervise. Don’t make assumptions about your puppy’s “understanding” of the rules or ability to control her bodily functions. She needs to earn her freedom inside the house with longer and longer accident-free periods. You can help her achieve this by supervising her early on so that you can see an accident coming and get her outside before it occurs.

Constant supervision may mean putting up baby gates to keep your puppy in a single room, with you, at all times. When you’re not going to be around or able to watch your puppy for a number of hours, a crate may be your best option. Crate training early on is not only an invaluable house training tool, but one that you will be able to use in the future, when you’d like to bring your puppy to any number of places where having her run around may not be an option. In a crate is also the safest way for your pup to travel in the car. Acclimating her to the crate beforehand can help avoid loud, stressful car rides.

An appropriate house training crate is large enough that your pup can comfortably stand up, turn around and lie down, but not much larger. It is true that most dogs don’t like to go to the bathroom where they sleep, though there are exceptions. If the crate is big enough that your pup can go to the bathroom and then lie down out of the way of her mess, she will probably do so. Most importantly, remember that the crate is not a place your puppy goes when she’s being punished; it should be someplace she likes to go; where she feels safe and comfortable. It should be provisioned with a nice comfy blanket. Make a point of giving your pup a really good treat every time she goes in the crate; preferably something she doesn’t get at any other time, and something which will keep her focused and happy for a little while. Maybe a puppy kong or sterile bone with a bit of peanut butter or yogurt in it.

When you do take your puppy out, there are some rules to follow. If you think about it, there’s no reason that simply “letting” a puppy out in the yard would constitute teaching her where she’s allowed to go to the bathroom. The yard is a big place and from a puppy’s perspective, there are lots of things to do there. When it’s time for your puppy to go to the bathroom, take her out on leash, to a designated spot and use a designated term (“go make,” “do your business,” heck, use “give it a whirl,” if you like, but be consistent) to encourage her to go to the bathroom. When she does, throw a party: get excited, give treats, have a 2-minute game of fetch or tug, or let her explore the rest of the yard. If you stand around and wait for upwards of five or six minutes and nothing happens, tell your puppy, “too bad,” and take her inside. Wait a couple of minutes and try again.

One advantage to having a “cue” to help encourage your puppy to go to the bathroom is that, once she begins to make the association, you can use that term in other places. Many dogs develop biases regarding substrates on which they will or will not eliminate. A puppy raised in the city, for example, who was never taken to the park and was only walked on the sidewalk, may be extremely hesitant to go to the bathroom on the grass when she goes to visit Auntie in the country. The reverse applies as well. This can become a major inconvenience for both you and your dog. To avoid this situation, you can use your “go make” cue to encourage your pup, while she’s young, to eliminate, for example, on the patch of peat outside Petco or on the sidewalk at a rest stop.

If there’s a concise take-home message to keep in mind with respect to house training, it is; manage away opportunities for accidents and be consistent. Keep those two things in mind and you’re well on your way to a house-trained dog.

If there are any further questions regarding this note throughout the week, feel free to ask and I will do my best to check in and answer them. Good luck, Greg!


Guest Contributor–Danielle Grand has spent the last decade working to parlay her affinity for animals into a dog training career. While earning her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, she was involved in an experimental study on canine cognition. She has also obtained her dog training certification from Animal Behavior College and attended numerous dog training seminars conducted by respected behaviorists. At home in New York’s capital region, she works closely with colleagues and mentors to expand her expertise; she hopes to help forge strong, happy relationships between many dogs and their humans.


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6 Responses to How to Potty Train Your Puppy

  1. Tina says:

    my 7 month maltipoo he will use the bathroom outside but he doesnt use the puppy pad inside we have a crate one side bed other puppy pad its close together not roaming room and he lays on the puppy pad doesnt use it then when he is in the living room we have a pad in an area but he doesnt use it he pees in the floor i dont know how to make him use the puppy pad

  2. Great advice about constant supervision, having a crate really helps, even if you don’t plan to use it all of the dog’s life. My pup Matilda would take so long to go outside, and just as she would squat, she would hear a leaf moving and get distracted, and have to start all over again. Having her take breaks in her crate until she went really helped us avoid accidents.

  3. alex says:

    I’d recommend a professional dog trainer help or maybe just watching some tutorial step by step videos at least

  4. Drew says:

    This is great advice! I just recently had to potty train my puppy and it can be frustrating, but once they get the hang of it, both of you will be able to enjoy more play time. It really is a win-win.

  5. Pingback: How To House Train A Maltipoo Puppy | How to Housetrain A Puppy

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